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Lies, Damned Lies and Statistics

Do your statistics lie?When the president or CEO of a major corporation has a bad day, distracted by a problem at home or is going through some other personal drama, it rarely affects the bottom line. In fact, depending on its size, larger businesses have enough momentum to endure months of this type of dysfunction. Not so in a personality-based small business such as your professional practice.

It prompts many chiropractic consultants to observe that their clients are “up when their practice is up and down when their practice is down.”

But they have it backwards. They’re confusing the symptom with the cause. More accurately, “when you’re up your practice is up and when you’re down, your practice is down.”

Are you up?

Mark Twain observed, “There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies and statistics.” Are your statistics a way of lying to yourself about the cause of an under performing practice?

Quantitative Statistics

Wise chiropractors track the statistical performance of their practice. These include the number of new patients, total patient visits, patient visit average, collections, no shows, recalls, walk-ins and the like. While these are helpful, they tend to be a rear view mirror reflection of the practice.

Imagine trying to drive your car by depending solely on what you see in the rear view mirrors.

Like the airplane pilot who gentle cuts back the engines to make the descent for landing, a practice can be well into a downward slide before the end of the month when the numbers are tallied. Losing even a small amount of momentum can induce further stress, making a turn around all the more difficult.

Seeing the stats and then pushing harder to get back to the “set point” called normal, is classic symptom-treating. (Ironically, these are the same chiropractors who make a big deal to patients about the fact that they’re addressing the underlying cause of their problem.) Not only is this approach reactive, solutions tend to prompt “doings” instead of “beings.” In other words, when the numbers dip, it causes chiropractors to invent something to do, rather than shedding unhelpful ways of being. You’re probably familiar with the more common doings such as advertising, patient appreciation events, screenings, etc. Like exhausted adrenals, these techniques are less and less fruitful these days.

By all means, track the quantitative statistical performance of your practice. However, if you want a more predictive, proactive metric you’ll want to also track three other statistics.

Qualitative Statistics

Since the chiropractor is the engine that drives a chiropractic practice, you’d want a way of evaluating your well-being in the areas that have the most profound impact on practice performance.

Granted, these are entirely subjective. Yet, they begin to form a more accurate predictor a practitioner’s forthcoming production:

Physical Energy. Have you picked up a few extra pounds around your waist? Lethargic? Are you getting sufficient aerobic exercise? Are you getting enough restful sleep? Getting regularly adjusted? What is the condition of your hands? Wrists? Elbows? Shoulders? In other words, what is your physical condition?

Rate yourself on a scale between 1 for “Near Death” and 10 if you’re in the “Olympic Athlete” category when it comes to your physical health: ___

Emotional Vitality. Which sounds more appealing, Monday or Friday? Is practice a burdensome obligation or an exciting privilege? At the end of a practice day are tired or wired? Do you get to the practice barely in time for the first appointment of the day? Are patients problems or opportunities? Are you fully invested in your practice or have you thought about other things you could do?

Rate yourself on a scale between 1 for “Burned Out” and 10 if you’re regularly “Spizzed Up” when it comes to your emotional temperature: ___

Future Outlook. If you have any hope of leading others, you must help them believe in the promise of a better tomorrow. And that starts with you. Do you believe the future will be better? Or are your best days behind you? Is the future something you dread or does it represent an exciting potential?

Rate yourself on a scale between 1 for “Hopeless” and 10 for “Hopeful” as you contemplate the future of your practice: ___

An Early Warning System

Evaluate yourself using these three qualitative statistics each Monday morning and you’ll be astonished by how accurately they are leading indicators of your quantitative statistics.

More significantly, when your Physical, Emotional or Future statistics take a dip, you’ll be far more resourceful at turning things around. Instead of concocting some promotion to give your patient volume a temporary goose, you’ll more likely identify the physical or emotional “leak” that is the real culprit.

Comments (3)

Love that you included it in the yearly planner to keep it front and center! Realizing once again that "be" is the first step of the equation. Thanks Bill!

Roger Karam, D. C:

Been in practice for 25 yrs and finally am hit between the eyes and ACKNOWLEDGE that these qualitative stats are the key. Enrolled in The Conversation and loving it!! Many cheers.

doug broman, dc:

Bill, this is very insightful. I have tracked my practice stats for nearly 25 years. First time I have heard this about the rear view mirror. I am starting this journal next week. I appreciate your insight and your faith-based outlook on life. Merry Christmas!

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From October 17, 2011 1:57 PM

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